My career was limited. My potential was constricted. I could be more, I could be better.
The first thing I learned was that I’d have to go back to school for that. Wasn’t I done with school twice already? Nevertheless. The world was changing. The world had changed dramatically. My protected little bubble needed expanding, or I was going to be left in the dust.
I took a deep breath. My local community college would take me back without fanfare. I could take a couple of courses and see how I did, see if I still had it in me to be a student. What would it hurt, except my pride? My fellow students would be young and fresh. They would be unworldly, and I would be jaded by experience. Their young minds would be bright and hungry, and I’d be slow and cantankerous. They’d been technologically savvy and hip, and I’d be mired in the back of the room scratching out longhand notes as fast as I could. Do kids even know how to write in cursive anymore? I fretted.
My friends reassured me. You look young, they told me. You don’t look your age. 40 isn’t old anyway, no one will notice. Still I worried. I’ll have more in common with the professors than with my fellow students!
This morning I gathered my notebooks, pens, and highlighters. I worried about how many other students there were, and left the house 90 minutes early. It doesn’t matter, since I wasn’t able to sleep anyway. Traffic was heavier but not yet stop-and-go. It looks like 6:30am a good time to leave for class every day. I’d rather be early than late, anyway. One mature decision does not make me a granny!
My blinker clicked sedately as I pulled off the freeway on the college’s exit. Yellow-red-green, yellow-red-green to the college entrance. I figured after sitting all day my body would appreciate the forced walk, so my little red car was the first one in the lot furthest from the campus. I followed a path around the current construction projects. In the 8 years since I was last a student this campus had changed. Obviously those voter’s propositions and additional taxes had been used for something. The college now resembles not so much a glorified high school as a sub-section of our local state universities. The single-story, single-access rooms are still in use in parts of the campus, but multi-storied modern glass fortresses for science, math, and social arts have replaced their precursors. I approach my home for the next two semesters: the shiny new Math&Science building. I can do this, I coach myself. I am ready for this challenge.
Another student waits for the elevator as I stepped into the lobby. When the doors open we both step on. She presses the button for the 4th floor and steps back. That is my floor too, and I smile at her.
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“OChem,” she answers. “You?”
“Chemistry,” I say, not realizing that the entire 4th floor is Chemistry labs and lecture halls.
She nods, then looks at me. “Professor, or student?”
“Student,”I say, chagrined.
“Oh,” she pauses nervously. “I couldn’t tell.”
All I can do is laugh.